March 8, 2009

Stephanie Kuehnert's Ode to Her 20s

The wildly cool Stephanie Kuehnert can be found on Blogger, MySpace, and el jay. In addition to writing, she works as a bartender and has her own, real life romance. Really, so many of these authors are getting married soon . . .

Of course, that sort of stuff doesn't tend to happen overnight. Stephanie graciously shared the story of her twenties. (Let's give her our best wishes for her 30s, m'kay?)


"An Ode to My 20s"
by Stephanie Kuehnert

Stephanie Kuehnert is the author of I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone and Ballads of Suburbia, both from MTV Books.

When Liviania told me she was hosting a party in honor of her blog turning one and her turning twenty and she’d like me to write a guest blog, I thought how cool and oddly appropriate. You see, I’m turning the big 3-0 this year, so I’m definitely reflecting on (and mourning the loss of) my 20s lately.

Age 20 was the last of my really out-of-control years. I have to admit I don’t remember my 20th birthday at all. I probably spent it drunk at a goth club. I know. Underage drinking, I’m not the best role model. At least I wasn’t back then. It was 1999 and I certainly partied like it. I was dealing with the aftermath of my teen years. In fact, that is pretty much what my 20s were about, dealing with the choices I’d made as a teen. I hear that the 30s are all about dealing with what you did in your 20s, so maybe it’s a pattern.

Age 21 was when I got my act together. I had to. My very smart mother had made a pact with me when I dropped out of college at 18. She said she would help me go back to school as long as I decided to do so before I turned 21. I’d dropped out of school because I knew I wanted to be a writer but figured one didn’t need school for that. Maybe some people don’t, but I did because without it, I had no discipline. I partied a lot, worked a little, and hardly ever wrote. Right before my 21st birthday, I started researching Creative Writing programs. I was living in Madison, Wisconsin at the time and was pleased to discover the only undergrad Fiction Writing (as opposed to Creative Writing, which included poetry as well) program was located back home in Chicago. I applied, was accepted by my 21st birthday and moved back to Chicago, alcoholic boyfriend in tow.

Age 22 was a year of determination. I threw myself into my writing full steam. I wrote an entire novel in a year, but realizing that it was thinly veiled autobiography I shelved it. I’d needed to purge my teen years and get writing practice, but I wanted my real first book to be something better, something born of my passion, but not my actual life.

Book Cover

Age 23 was when I started writing some short stories that would come together and eventually become I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone. I graduated with my bachelors degree and decided to stay on for masters so I could really focus on it.

Age 24 was when I really started to become a grown-up. Or I tried anyway. I went on this trip to Seattle with some girl friends on the 10th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death. Kurt Cobain had such an impact on me as a teenager, going to a memorial for him really allowed me to work through—finally—all the pain of my teen years. I also started to realize that my relationship with the alcoholic boyfriend wasn’t very healthy. But I wasn’t quite grown-up yet so instead of dealing with that, I bought a house with him.

Age 25 was when we finally broke up. I realized I had to. He was holding me back. I couldn’t achieve the dreams I was striving for while worrying about him all the time. It was time to be free, be my own woman. There was an agent interested in my manuscript, I had to focus on that.

Age 26 was when I finished that manuscript, got signed by that agent and started working hard on getting it into a publishable state. I also reveled in being single and spent 6 weeks in LA with three of my very best girl friends at a special film program. I felt like I finally knew who I was. I didn’t have to define myself by my boyfriend or my friend or the way I dressed or what music I listened to. I was me. I guess this also meant that I was finally ready to find true love even though I wasn’t looking. I thought I’d finish my MFA program and move to Seattle. Instead I met Scott and fell for him. Hard. I’d been in love a few times before, in what I thought were real relationships. But nothing before Scott was like this. Honest, healthy, really real.

Age 27 was when I had to get a real job. It seriously sucked ass. I had to repress the real me who I’d just found and wear office clothes and dye my hair a normal color and ugh. But there was one silver lining (besides my still happily-ever-after romance of course). After a year of waiting, almost giving up hope on my writing career and planning to get a degree in library science (which I still think would be an awesome career path), my agent sold my book to MTV Books. I was going to be a published author.

Age 28 was when I became a published author. Literally 5 days before my 29th birthday. The whole year was about me learning the ropes of the career I’d dreamed about since age 5. I also signed a contract for my second book, officially making me not a one hit wonder.

Age 29 was when I quit that stupid “real job.” Not because I was suddenly rich, mind you, but because I had to take a chance and follow my dream. 9 to 5 allowed me no time to write, so I went back to my grad school job of bartending. Age 29 is also when I got engaged. I couldn’t be happier; there is no one else in the world who I’d rather spend the rest of my life with.

I’ll be 30 when I get married and when my second book comes out. No doubt the thirties will bring new challenges. I’m sure married life isn’t perfect all the time and there is always the chance that I might not earn enough of a living from my writing and have to go back to a real job (though definitely library science, no more office ickiness). Who knows what backlashes from my 20s I may have to deal with…

But ultimately I’m proud of my 20s. They started off shaky. There were lots of challenges, but I found myself, I conquered my teenage pain, found true love and began to follow my dreams. And Liviania, I wish you the same beautiful though sometimes heartbreaking journey through your 20s. It’s an adventure! Thanks for letting me wish you and your blog a happy birthday!


I'm so excited to share this blog! Stephanie's words made me think about what I will or won't do with my 20s. Hers was one of the first event entries I received and it made me realize I actually could pull this thing together.

One commenter who can follow the rules will win a signed copy of I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE.


  1. Ooh, an office job sounds so boring! Especially with cubicles, they seem uber boring. What's involved in library science? I never heard of it. And thanks for this great interview, I'm definitely going to make sure I don't make bad decisions while I'm still in high school (at least I'll try, sorta)!

    Haha being a bartender sound super fun too!

  2. Wow. thank you so much for sharing your 20s with us. My 20s went by a few years ago but I always think back on them now and again.


    You have been given an award over on my blog:

    Come and check it out! :)

  3. Great story, Stephanie, and happy-almost birthday Liviana!
    I have a copy of I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE on my shelf for review, and I should be starting it soon...

  4. Wow. Thank you for sharing the story of your 20s with us Stephanie. Sounds like an amazing decade.

  5. That's a remarkable story, Stephanie. I am proud of you. It makes me wonder how that decade of my life will turn out.

  6. Thanks for having me Liviania and thanks for all the comments guys!

    Michelle, library science is the degree you get to become a librarian. If I can't earn a living as a writer that is what I plan to do so it always has something to do with books!

    Bookworm, I hope you enjoy IWBYJR!

    And yeah the 20s were a crazy time. Good, but crazy!

  7. My 20's are kind of going back and forth. School...Job...School...Job...Kids...Job...School. And so it goes.

  8. This is a fun story. I'm still in the middle of my 20s, and still in the middle of feeling like a teenager and an adult at the same time...

  9. My 20's were really fun - hope your 30's are just as good

  10. Great story. A wonderful birthday tale for the ultra-fab Liviania.

  11. I'm halfway through my 20s, and I am excited with what lays ahead of me!

    There are 2 quotes I'll share with you:
    1) "One's twenties are a time of reinvention, of regrouping, and rethinking after the battles and fiery uncertainty of adolescence." Richard Mason, Drowning People

    2) "There's a point, around age twenty, when you have to choose whether to be like everybody else the rest of your life, or to make a virtue of your peculiarities." Anon

    Yay for the birthday banner :P but obviously I should've worked on getting the dimensions right...

  12. I've posted this on Win a Book. Don't enter me though

  13. wow, great 20s, such adventure and i think you'd have so many stories to write. and also i must add that your mom was super to make that deal with you

  14. I'm 22 now! :) Jeesh, I'm a little jealous you already had a book written. Congratulations on all that you've accomplished! Hope I'm that good when I turn 30!

  15. I think I loved your 20's list except for the fact I have 2 sons in their 20's!

    Congrats on your new book!

  16. Thanks Liviania for hosting this interview, it was great! I enjoyed reading Stephanie's passage through her twenties, I have to look back quite a few years to remember mine :D I am in awe of Stephanie being able to recognize her path and accomplish her goals so early in life. I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone has been on my wishlist since I read about it on Myspace and now I will have to add Ballads of Suburbia to my list!

  17. wow Stephanie, thanks for sharing your 20s in so much detail. all the rollercoaster moments make me feel better about my current year of being 22 and all the madness. thanks so much for that!

    i am a follower

    and i blogged about it here

    sports dot erikalynn at gmail dot com

  18. Please count me in. Thanks.

    avalonne83 [at] yahoo [dot] it

  19. This makes me understand, all the more clearly, why I love Stephanie so much (in spite of the full DECADE separating our ages!). And how lucky am I that I was actually WITH HER on her 29th birthday, rocking and reading? (And you are going to rock the thirties even harder, SK!) xo

  20. was raising kids in my 20;s LOl so it a blur sticky mess

  21. I haven't been in my 20's for many years, but I can relate to a lot of what you've written. My 20's were great! I'd love the opportunity to read your book. Please enter my name in your draw. Thanks.

  22. I wish I could remember my 20's but yours sound much more better anyway!

  23. Definitely an intense ride, but a ton of good came of it too. I hope my 20's have as much going on as well...though hopefully nothing too hard, that I can't handle. :)

    No need to enter me. I have two copies already. HAH!


  24. What do you need with two copies Lauren?

  25. I just wanted to say thanks so much for sharing your story. I'm only a couple of years into my 20s and I'm hoping I can make the most of them.

  26. It's always interesting to hear an author's personal journey. You sure got your act together young. Some people party all their lives!!


  27. Wow, she got started pretty young.
    I'm a follower!

  28. Thanks for sharing your 20's, Stephanie! I'm almost but not quite done mine yet and it's a good reminder that hey, I can still pack quite a bit more into them. Love the title of your book!

  29. I'm in my 20's and I'm still trying to be a grown-up. I'm a follower.

  30. A lot of changes in your 20s! It was interesting to read your post!

    I haven't gotten my hands on a copy of IWBYJR yet, but it looks too awesome not to read!

  31. I'm only 4 years into my 20's and already hating it (laughs) Hopefully the rest of it will be better! Sounds like a fun read though!

  32. I have 3 years til I enter my twenties.

  33. Happy birthday?


  34. Hi

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